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Rifle prepares to face No. 1

Joelle MilholmGlenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Post Independent/Kara K. Pearson
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They’ve done it to Niwot in 2004 and Northridge in 2005.On Saturday, the Rifle Bears will look to knock off the No. 1 seed again.This time Rifle will face top-seeded Falcon in the first round of the Class 3A playoffs and once again will hope to play the spoiler card.In 2004, the Bears eliminated No. 1 Niwot, 23-20, on the way to a state title and in 2005, Rifle sent top-seeded Northridge home in the first round after a 21-20 victory.

Last season, Rifle couldn’t upset the No. 1 team, falling to Alamosa, the eventual state champions, 34-26 in the quarterfinals.Now, the Bears will look to get back on upset track, but Rifle head coach Damon Wells knows it won’t be easy to do against the 10-0, South Metro League Champion Falcons.”Obviously you don’t go undefeated, and we know because we have done it, if you aren’t a good team,” Wells said. “They are a talented team. Their running back (Keenen Ballage) is talented, he’s fast. I don’t know if he is the centerpiece of their offense or not, but they have got some big kids, some fast kids. They pretty much have it all.”Ballage has racked up 2,007 yards and 22 touchdowns this season and is averaging nine yards per carry. Wells is working with the Bears to counter the Ballage attack.”We are going to try and get faster. They are a really fast team,” said Wells. “I don’t know if that is possible in six days.”

Wells believes the Bears are strong this year after playing in the tough Western Slope League. As this is the 13th straight year the Bears have made the playoffs, they’ve got postseason experience on their side.”In our experience, if we limit the turnovers and missed tackles, we’ll be in good shape,” he said.At the quarterback position, both Rifle’s Hazen Moss and Falcon’s Cade Schulbe throw the ball occasionally, but Moss has had more success running the ball. The one thing that is a bit unusual for the Bears is that they will be playing a postseason game on the road. Rifle’s played six of their last eight postseason games at Bears Stadium.



“We were looking at their school Web site and we were saying how funny it was that this will be their first home playoff game,” Wells said.Home or away, the Bears and their historically strong program will still be giving everything they’ve got on Saturday. Tyler Chapman will be gunning for another big rushing game, Justin Stone and the rest of Rifle’s lineman will aim to hold their ground and all the Bears will look to shock the 3A football world again.But they won’t forget why they are playing football in the first place.”I hope they have fun,” Wells said. “Overall, our motto is ‘Rifle tough.’ We consider it a forgone conclusion that that’s how they’ll play, but hopefully they can have some fun along the way.”The game will be streamed live on http://www.kmts.com. Click on the link to KGLN.


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